Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Monday, November 30, 2009



All three reports are in a good condition now. A little bit of tweaking, re-reading, editing and re-re-reading needed and they're good to go. I hope they are good enough! I'm not expected an amazing pass, but TO pass would be good!

Tummy is a bit better and back a bit more relaxed. Eyes a bit sore from so many hours of computer though! But hey!

Got a tummy ache. And no peppermint tea in my room. And no time to go out and get some.

Got a back ache. And no long hot bath I can sink into. Actually, no bath. And if I did, it'd probably be 3/4 length.

Got too much left to do on reports. Well, not a hideous amount, but still too much.

And my nose is cold. And my fingers. But at least my computer is holding out. (Heating on = computer slows down, remember?). And I'm wearing a hat and legwarmers with my pj's and ... thankfully I'm not too bothered about what anyone else in the house thinks about this.

*whimper* tummy.

*whimper* back.

*whimper* reports.


And I'm tired and can hear the mice. Stressed? Me?

Sunday, November 29, 2009


1.5 days until my portfolio deadline.
Could be going much better. Am extremely distracted. Obviously.

6 days until the xmas party I'm meant to be helping organise.
Have really done nothing for this. Feel a bit bad, but timing is shite and school manager is very focused, unlike me.

8 days until I meet with the external examiner for the diploma, have a lesson observed, give a presentation, and get tested on my knowledge of phonology and phonetics.
Ha! Ha! Ha! I have SO much to prepare for this day. I have a vague idea about the lesson, a vague idea about the presentation and a vague idea about the phonetics and phonology. Okay, maybe 'slightly' more than a vague idea about these. But only slight.

14 days until I go to India.
Have done fuck all. Thank god I sorted the visa out early or I'd have been stuffed. There are clothes to take that need repairing, there are... oh sod it, that's what airport shops are for. Really DO want to book the first nights hotel though.

38 days until I get back from India.
Not such a biggie. Just means new term and getting organised as I'll still have lots of diploma to do but with the exam end of May, I need to keep the momentum going. Also means I'll have time for 1,001 things I've been delaying. Most important of which is sorting out my room and deciding what to pack and not.

Also need to househunt in case I don't move into agencies other house. Idea of sharing ONE kitchen with ten people is REALLY not appealing (I have my own kitchen now).

63 days until I need to commit to a new contract, or hand in my notice.
See last load of posts in reference to this. I don't know what I'm doing but updating my CV is definitely on the cards - and sending them off at some stage.

91 days until I HAVE to be out of this house.
Oh joy. I fucking hate moving house. I've lived in more houses than probably anyone I know. I stopped counting when I hit my mid-20s but it's gotta be 40ish properties by now probably.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Of Comings, Goings and Confusion

T-shirt of one of my eight-year olds today: 'Stake my life on you and love it.'

I have no idea what it meant, but it's better than the six-year old the other day wearing a 'throbbing [something i can't remember but felt a little inappropriate]' t-shirt.

Another student today told me how a colleague of hers was pissing people off because he takes a day off every week that he shouldn't take and that this means lots of extra work for the rest of them. I asked how long he had been doing this. She said: TWO YEARS.

Japan still sometimes manages to amaze me. What other country in the world wouldn't have shown the colleague the door a long time ago?

The Japanese are season mad. Japanese students regularly inform us that there are four seasons in Japan. Now, firstly, they are often surprised to learn other countries also have four seasons. And, secondly, there aren't four seasons here. There's bloody hot, wet, schizophrenic with autumn leaves, bloody cold, cherry blossom, and typhoon season. Bloody hot season has everyone complaining. Wet and typhoon have everyone complaining. Bloody cold has everyone complaining again...

And cherry blossom and turning-of-the-leaves season have everyone taking three-hour train journeys, annually, to take photos of the cherry blossoms and turned-leaves.*

Cats. Around my way there are lots of stray cats. People feed them and give them little cardboard box 'houses' to live in. They breed and there are more stray cats to be fed in the streets and housed in cardboard boxes. I have to say that it does befuddle me somewhat that these people don't just rehouse the cats. But animal welfare isn't a big thing here.

Cats and birds. One of my students told me she had to put her garbage out at 7.30am this morning (Saturday) and so she was tired. On questioning why she didn't just put out the night before, she said it wasn't allowed as cats and birds would get at the rubbish. I asked why they didn't throw a net over it like EVERYWHERE ELSE seems to. She didn't know.

I asked what time the rubbish is collected. She said about 9.30am. I asked why she didn't put it out later then. She said it was a rule of her area. She then said in some roads around her way, rubbish was regularly not collected until 3pm or later, but they still had the 7.30am rule. I questioned whether animals weren't just as likely to get at it in the day. This confused her somewhat as it hadn't occurred to her this might be a problem. Even. Though. She. Admitted. To. Having. Seen. It.

Gimme strength!

I sometimes cross the road when the traffic signals say I shouldn't. I get glared at for this. Bad gaijin.

More thoughts on life after Japan: I think I'm over the Paris idea. Indecisive, moi? But there seems to be a small consensus that spring won't be a good time to get work in Europe. Now seeds have been planted in my brain of staying until end of May and getting work teaching summer courses in London before starting in Europe in September. Provided I can find work!

I'm sure I'll change my mind again.

Portfolio update: slowly coming together. Should be done and dusted by end of Monday. HAS to be done and dusted by end of Monday. Too knackered to do any tonight.

*it's my blog. I'll exaggerate if I want to.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Disjointed Thoughts

I'm sitting in a bubble of tired haze, having crashed around 2.30am and being woken up at 6am and 8am and not needing to get up until later.

The water jug is heating. Water jug? I don't actually know what it's called. Kettles are rare in Japan in my experience. That's not to say they're not around, just that in my experience they are rare. And the ones I've seen in houses are kettles that heat on a stove, not electric kettles like England. But I have a jug thing that heats up, and that's what I've mostly seen.

Tired. See? And rambling.

Had a VERY strange dream last night, and I'm not one to remember my dreams normally. Can't remember all the details but it was diploma portfolio related and involved my tutors, Jillian Michaels, being accused of cheating by asking someone to check over my papers, and being arrested and taken away to be tortured.

Pretty interesting anxiety dream in all, I'd say!

And now, my hazy self must go and make coffee and unhaze a little as I have a long way to go still before the start of next week when the portfolio must be submitted.


P.S. Told landbitchlady I'd move into their new house. A few reasons - mainly cost and convenience.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dear oh dear

Dear Student,

If you want more conversation then please take the initiative. Please think of some things to talk about. Please give me longer answers - preferably more than two words at a time. Please understand you can ask questions to me as well. Please realise the conversation you want will never happen until you start to actually make some effort and stop it being a q&a session.


Jo sensei*.


Dear Local Council,

You DO realise this street is being demolished in a handful of months, don't you? So - just a little curious here - why have you spent money putting unneeded streetlights around our house. TWO unneeded street lights. Can't you see they are both merely ten metres or so from other streetlights?

Yours gaijin** san***.


Dear Self,

Have you always been so indecisive, or is it a recent thing? Yes, I didn't think it was recent. Sometimes, dear self, it amazes me how you achieve anything in life. Of course, you ARE getting older now, and senility is bound to creep in sooner or later - probably sooner - still, then you won't be aware of your indecisiveness so it won't matter.



P.S. Whilst a huge bowl of banana, persimmon, apple and satsuma is an awesome idea, drowning it in alcohol could explain why you are now a little bit drunk.


* sensei means teacher. i'm normally called 'jo sensei' at least a couple of times a week. i don't particularly like it.

** gaijin means foreigner.

***san is an honorific. kind of like mr/mrs/ms etc. adults are 'san'. (ayako san) dogs and girls are 'chan'. (spot chan). boys are sometimes also 'chan' but normally 'kun'. (Yo kun)Hello Kitty is 'kitty chan' here. Whilst decorating a xmas tree at school today, the school manager referred to a bauble as 'bauble chan'. but never mind'.

From 'hola' to 'merde'

The next move.

A couple of years ago I decided it would be an awesome experience to go and work in Saudi, the UAE or thereabouts. Then I got hooked on Argentina. Argentina turned to Madrid and finally settled on Barcelona. I've been totally committed to moving to Barcelona for most of this year. Totally. Studying Spanish, reading Barcelona blogs, keeping an eye on the company I want to work for and the alternatives committed.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I started worrying about the Spanish market and how easy it would be to actually get work there. And then other Spanish cities, German cities, French cities started creeping into my mind. No Italian cities. Italians are crazy. I've lived with some. Kidding. Italians are lovely BUT maybe a little too enthusiastic for a day-to-day grump like to me to deal with without losing the little bit of sanity I still hold.

And then.

Then last night I watched BEFORE SUNSET again. First time in years. A passing thought to Paris has turned to obsession in the last 12 hours. It started the moment the camera hit 'Shakespeare and co' and took me on the hugest trip down memory lane.

Paris. Paris. Paris. Perfect Paris.

I'm not going to blog about Paris now but suffice it to say, I lived in Paris for two years after university and the time is filled with many fond memories. I also met up with a load of people for a huge pissup about nine years ago. More fond memories.

Paris is idealised for me. Paris makes me smile. Paris is all shiny and happy and lovely.

And - should I go back to live there - well, I don't believe in backtracking and maybe it WOULD be backtracking. Maybe it's not the best idea to consider. But moving forward means taking a new road.

I'm sure there were things I disliked about living in Paris. But I can't think of any. And there lies the danger.

Then again, I'm sure nine years after leaving Tokyo I'll look back with nothing but fond memories too.

Maybe I'll just toss the coin of fate into the air - make an attack on Paris, Barcelona and yet to be decided German city (Berlin maybe?) and see who throws it back to me.


Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm blogging so much of late, it's because I don't have time. Seriously, I don't. It's just easier than finishing the diploma reports that have a looming deadline, and I'm sitting over my computer anyway and it's the most pleasant procrastination device I can think of.

And Paris? Maybe I'll share some of the memories soon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Not my finest moment

The brother-in-law of one of my students was in a coma for six or so weeks after wrapping his car around a central reservation.
Today the student said: 'My brother-in-law's not dead'.
I said, rather enthusiastically, 'That's great! You must be very happy.'
She said, 'We went to the funeral yesterday.'
Somehow I think she didn't say what I thought she said originally, and with clarification the brother-in-law had, indeed, died. The ground didn't open up and swallow up, though could have been useful if it had, and I still don't know what she meant to say. Maybe 'got dead' or 'now dead'.
The joys of teaching, eh!
I'm all confused now about what to do next year. When my contract ends at the end of March, I was planning to leave Japan. It'll have been 5.5 years by then and I only came for a year or two. I'm desperate to get back to Europe for a number of reasons and delayed leaving this year for the sake of doing the diploma.
To leave end of March, I need to commit to leaving by end of January and yesterday my DoS sewed seeds of doubt in my mind as to my timing for leaving. Sewing seeds of doubt in the mind of an indecisive person is like putting a bone in front of a dog and telling it not to touch it. Or something. Anyway, I now really don't know what to do!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

student say - teacher tell

Have you seen this story from England about Mckenzie Dunkley? (yes, I sometimes look at the British tabloids online, as well as the broadsheets, BBC, etc - but that's besides the point) - Mckenzie is a cute, four-year old nutcase and the youngest kid ever to be expelled from school.

To be honest, the actions of this kid didn't so much shock me as the mother agreeing to have him named and shown in the press.

But, as I was doing language for advice with a group of intermediate students I thought I'd get their take on it.

Bear in mind the attitude here is a two-plane one of a) kids don't know any better and b) teachers are scared of parents. I've mentioned before kids I've seen here in kindergartens kicking teachers who just smile at them, etc.
So, I told them the story of little Mckenzie and they decided he should not have been expelled, he should have been talked to and that hitting / kicking a teacher was okay, but hitting / kicking other kids wasn't.

They were all in agreement that hitting parents wasn't okay though.
Student Y is in a group of low-level learners. I think she's a complete nutcase but she's extremely amusing - in a bit of a Susan Boyle kind of way. I love the group she's in. I've only been teaching them a couple of months but they adapted very quickly to my way of teaching and they amuse me no end.

Student Y - sorry, just to clarify here - she's in her 40s, the other women in their 50s - likes to sing - English kids songs - and has no problem spontaneously bursting into song. You can't really help but like her. Like I said, reminds me of Susan Boyle.

Today we were talking about the body and pregnancy (yes, of COURSE she started singing 'heads, shoulders, knees and toes') and we talked about knowing and guessing the sex of your kid. Y has a son. She wanted a daughter ('because girls are pretty') but didn't get one. So when her son was three she always dressed him as a girl. She has photos. She's saving them to show at his wedding...

So. We're doing parts of the body. They've brainstormed a load and start asking me about the names of other parts. We discussed man-boobs. This is a foundation level class. On the way out I told them to look up more parts and pointed to some random ones including my wrist. Y (of course, Y) said 'breast'. I clarified the difference between 'wrist' and 'breast'.
And finally, one day I'll learn if you don't want people to know what you're planning, spending months hinting at it, isn't really the way to go as people do start putting 2 and 2 together! Still, this doesn't put me into a bad place so no harm done. (bla bla bla, leaving Japan next spring).

P.S. Diploma - second draft of one paper finished. I hope. Two more first drafts to get finished ASAP.

Monday, November 23, 2009


it seems i have the concentration ability of a two year old.

and that i'm unable to focus.

or to write in a non-chatty style.

or to write coherent english.

all of this is not good, seeing as i'm trying to write up three diploma reports right now.


i'm also realising there is nowhere comfy in my room to sit and type.

not good.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Surprising? No.

Bloody hell, it's cold. I'm in my room in a LOT of clothes and a hat. I keep turning the heating on. And off. I like the heating. My computer doesn't. And, as I'm trying to get my diploma reports finished, the computers wishes are rather more important than mine. (Too much heat slows my old computer down too much and I don't want to buy a new computer in Japan).

And while trying to finish said reports my concentration is focusing on everything but.

I'm remembering a couple of things I forgot to put in my last blog entry -

Like about a new student that comes to class with both a Louis Vuitton (yuck) bag AND a pink 100 yen bag (50p). It's kind of odd - but it kind of isn't. Maybe I really have been here too long. I've attempted to figure out what message she's trying to give with this combination, but concluded she probably isn't. Whatever takes your fancy, I guess.

In our classrooms everyone sits around a (normally rectangular) table - well, in adult lessons anyway. I normally sit on the floor with kids, or chairs without tables..... anyway, in adult lessons we sit around a table (no space not to) and in almost every class students choose to sit in the same place every week. A private student, as much as a group student. I've had students moving chairs around if one is missing from their normal gap and they want that gap. I've also had students arriving AFTER a new student has arrived and telling them to move from 'their' spot. And had new students asking members of a class where they can sit.

Of course I move students around sometimes, but they really don't like it.

Anyhoo, I decided to play detective and asked one group why this was the case. They decided because they had found a comfortable seat was the main answer. (All the chairs are the same) and that they didn't like changing. Oh and maybe out of politeness.

If it was up to me, I'd have the lot of them sitting on the floor! But my real point here, is (and I'm sure this is not a nice thing to say) one of the things that frustrates me most about my students IS their predictability. I know where they'll sit. I know what they'll say. I know how they'll react (or not react) to things.

I know I'm the teacher and it's MY job to motivate THEM, and not the other way around, but sometimes I just want to shake things up. Of course, not all of my students are like this. And for that I am thankful.

Now, enough of this procrastinating. I really must get one of the three reports finished tonight. Or maybe I should tidy my room, or wash some clothes, or book a hotel in Delhi, or have a nap, watch a movie, make some pasta, update my twitter profile, check facebook again, email one of the many people I've been meaning to email for ages, study some Spanish, update my iPod, make a cup of coffee, go for a walk, have a shower......


Oh, P.S. I decided to not do the diploma exam last Friday. I'm going to do it in May instead.

P.P.S. My house that's being demolished -I have until the start of March to move. The agency is offering a pretty good bargain to move into another of their properties but I have to assume here that all their bread isn't baked in the same oven as - well, the condition of the current place and the mentality of the landlady are both not good. Still, won't be forever, so am considering this option.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nearly Over.

Recent recents I haven't blogged about. Prepare yourself for some totally disconnected randomness. But to kick things off, a photo. Apologies for the quality but a) it was taken with my very old crappy phone and b) I was being 'discrete' when I took this. To fully understand what you are looking at, this is a woman wearing KNITTED black drop-crotch trousers covered in large beavers (I'm guessing 'beaver', could be mole or groundhog or something else large and rodenty I guess), hearts and stars. I didn't know if she was giving out a message (I *heart* beaver) or had just totally and utterly lost the plot. Guess we'll never know!

And for the rest of the randomness:
  1. My local train station has a sign in English saying 'no dangerous good'. That's it. No picture. No clarification.

  2. Seen recently on a t-shirt: 'mellow is not enought' (sic.). No, I have no idea either.

  3. Had a student about a month ago, who complained that she didn't want to come to an English school to just learn English. I said maybe we should be teaching her to juggle.

  4. Had another old granny student tell me about how she'd had a 'special massage' abroad. I didn't delve any deeper into that one.

  5. On the subject of Japanese first names and what made parents choose certain names, one student replied she and her husband had named her daughter 'Tomomi' which means 'beautiful fat sheep.' (Before anyone jumps on this one, the kanji they had chosen meant this. I'm sure other kanji can be used for 'Tomomi' which has a different meaning.)

  6. Not funny but -actually REALLY not funny - but I want to share this. Talking to a high level teenager about Aboriginals and other indigineous people and asked her what she knows about indigineous people in Japan - ie Ainu. She'd learned they live in trees, they don't work, they don't send their kids to school, they eat food from the forest around them. I managed to not cry. But only just.

  7. Another student - and again, really not funny - described how she'd been to observe her daughter's maths class and the kids had just chatted away while the teacher was trying to explain something to them. I asked what did the teacher do? She said, nothing. I asked the whole group their opinion on this, and the agreement was, the teacher should have done something but teachers are too soft and they are afraid of the parents. Just kill me now.

  8. Talking about changes in Japan over the last 12 months. The student decided the most significant change was that the recession had meant Uniqlo (clothes shop) jeans had gone down by 800 yen or something (about four quid).

  9. The quid sign has vanished from my keyboard. It used to be here.

  10. Same student as #8 - on the subject of Obama's visit to Japan. I asked her and her classmate what they'd ask Obama if they got the chance. One student said she'd ask about his Nobel Peace Prize. Mrs. Bargain Jeans lady said she'd ask him what time he got up and went to bed. Other student and I both looked at her as if she was insane.

  11. Another student went on a holiday to England. Asking her about her trip she described in great detail which supermarkets she'd liked (Bath) and why Swindon's were a real let down for her (apparantly the supermarkets in Swindon only sell things you can buy in Tokyo).

  12. Asked a teenager what her dream vacation would be. (Tokyo) Disneyland. I said, 'your DREAM vacation, OUTSIDE Tokyo'. She panicked and looked frightened as I pointed at a world map reminding her there IS a world outside of Tokyo. She eventually decided her dream vacation would be to Italy because the food is 'very gorgeous'.

  13. A past question for an entry interview for high flying high school students who get the chance for early acceptance into universities: if your father and boyfriend were about to drown and you could save only one, which one would you chose? (This is for Japanese 17 and 18 year olds to answer FFS!)

  14. The mice are back in the walls of our house. The landbitchladymadcultwoman doesn't give a crap.

  15. My insomnia is back.

  16. When my insomnia ISN'T affecting me, my house is. I'm regularly kept awake / woken up by people in the house. Although the late night noise is against the rules in the contract, the landbitchladymadcultwoman doesn't give a crap.

  17. I mentioned the house is being demolished early next year didn't I?

  18. I also mentioned I've had no time (cos of diploma) to do anything about moving yet, other than register with some agencies.

  19. Am not looking forward to moving. For one, I'm in a gaijin/guesthouse now BUT I have my OWN kitchen. Anywhere else I'm going to have to share. I don't like sharing kitchens.

  20. Additionally, I'm not prepared to commit to a 12-month contract so that limits a lot of options down to... gaijin houses. And I need to get as much money together as I can so I can't afford big downpayments. And I have SOOO much stuff to sort out. Not good.

  21. I decided to delay the diploma exam until next year as I don't feel ready to do it yet. I do, however, have to get three reports finished for my portfolio by the end of this month (all in various stages of completedness right now), prepare a presentation for an external examiner, prepare a lesson for the external examiner, review phonology for the external examiner.. oh and she comes in 2.5 weeks.

  22. I also have to help organise a school Christmas party. You can imagine how I feel about this. Especially as the party is two nights before the external examiner.

  23. It's bloody cold and wet these days.

  24. Can't bloody wait to get to India. First day in Delhi may involve a visit to a hairdressers. Haven't had time (this year) and REALLY need to get it all chopped off. Well, maybe not all of it ;-)

  25. I have NO idea why I've done this post in numbered points but doubt anyone is reading it anyway.

  26. ... well, there's more I want to say, but can't.